We took daytrips from Diyarbakir the next two days, enjoying the fact that we didn't have to take our big packs with us and find a new hotel. I had always heard about Mardin, and so the next day we were up early and to the minibus area. The minibuses go when they are full, and in this case ours was quite full. One mother had gotten two seats - for her and her three children. Other mothers had children up to what looked like age 12 on their laps. I understand having children perhaps up to five on one's lap, but beyond that it gets silly. That, and the kids are not protected by the minibuses insurance. And three kids in one seat is just insane. There was a long discussion between the driver and one mother, which only ended when one of the girls in question told them to stop it. Before the end of the trip, one girl, who was finally old enough (about 15) to get her own seat went through her entire English repetoire with us, which took a maximum of five minutes.
The old city of Mardin is built on a hill, with the new city sprawling below. We got off the bus on the main street, which runs along the hill about halfway up. After walking a bit, Mark looked through a doorway, and discovered a view, as well as a cafe looking out at that view, so we stopped for a coffee, feeling a bit out of place to be sitting and looking at the view instead of staring at the screen of a laptop.
We visited the very impressive Sultan Isa Medresesi, the gorgeous post office, and attempted to see the Forty Martyrs Church, but true to form it was closed to renovation. I did get us in to look at the inside, but it was covered in wooden scafolding and dust. The buildings in old mardin, or the old ones at least are made of a honey colored stone, and many have amazing carvings and elaborate decoration.
After our wandering we went to the Cercis Murat Konagi resturant for my belated birthday lunch out (thank you Mike and Marie Riddle!). It comes very highly recommended by the lonely planet, a place where the women of Mardin do all the cooking. The building is amazing - an old christian courtyard house that has been redone. Our waiter was a flamingly flamboyant gay guy in a pink shirt. He insisted on explaining the very complicated menu in English, although had he done it in Turkish I would have understood better. We ended up getting some icli kofte, a very impressive platter with small amounts of mezze in metal ladels, and a stew with plums, lots of pits, chick peas and lamb. It was all really good and a bit amusing.
After managing to get out of our chairs, we walked through the baazar area. Because there are lots of steps going down the hill, cars can only use the main street, and don't enter the baazar. And so we saw donkeys. And guys making saddles and one rolling black stuff onto what looked like wax paper. He explained what he was doing, but I managed to not understand a word. We made our way down to the bottom of the hill through the maze of streets. At one point we passed a boy crouched down. Instead of saying hi and then asking for money he worlessly handed us both cucumbers, something that's never happened to me before.
At the bottom of the hill we gazed up at the city, and then made our way to the bit hotel, which is a very faded four stars, and where the amazing view of the city that is on all the postcards was supposed to be found. The view was amazing, and the drinks horribly expensive. After taking many photos, we caught the bus back home, exhausted by the time we got there.
Our second daytrip was to Hasankeyf. Hasankeyf was the one of the few places I really really wanted to go to on the trip. Perhaps the one I wanted to see the most. I had no idea what it was that was there, only that it was supposed to be amazing, is a UNESCO world heritage site, and is supposed to be flooded when the planned dam on the Tigres is built as part of the GAP project. So we needed to see it soon, before it was flooded.
To get to Hasankeyf we took a minibus to Batman (yes, there is a town named Batman!) and then changed to another that would pass Hasankeyf. The bus went along the river before crossing it at a bridge, where we got off. We immediatly walked back accross the bridge for views back across the village. From there we could see the massive pillars that remain from a much earlier bridge, as well as the castle, caves and village. We also passed a large number of goats using every inch of shade under the few trees to sleep.
Back on the other side of the bridge we stoped in a corner store to get water, and were told that the site was closed as a rock fell and killed a six year old. We were a little shocked, and wandered on until we were overwhelmed by a familiar scent - gozleme! and had to stop and eat some. Across the street was a little office with the photo of a very pretty blue bird. We stoped in to ask where we could find the bird, and the man, telling us he was working against the dam said it would be very hard to find and the site was closed, but he could recommend an alternate route for us. Walking with him a little farther down the road we came to a gate. We could go no further. We were shocked. Every bit of the old village, caves and castle was closed. And it wasn't just a rock that fell, but part of a cliff, a massive piece of rock. We were very dissapointed. We had gotten to the place before it flooded, but a month too late to explore.
The guy told us that we could go up and around and get a view into the valley, and then up and around again to have a look at the caves around the back. Figuring it was better than nothing, we took his advice. The first view was very nice, and we were trailed by a purple shadow, maybe 10 years old, who never said a word. Up and around again we climbed on the roof of a cave goatshed to get an even better view. There was a house behind us and all the children peeked out, put underwear on the baby, and then brought him out and begged for a photo. So Mark took one.
We walked a bit through the valley behind, but a little paranoid about more falling rock, and also a bit hot didn't walk too far. I had been very excited about eating at one of the platforms over the river while dangling my feet in the water, but the road down to these had been closed off along with everything else, and this was not to be. Instead we ate at a resturant with a balcony over the river, and a view of the bridge. But it was a view over the Tigres river, and we had some very lovely fish.
Exploring the village a little more we found that the cave cafe we wanted to visit was also in the closed zone, but there was a garden resturant, that at first seemed nice, but got less so as they started watering the plants and it got muddy and soaked the bottom of my backpack. After visiting the mosque we decided that we had seen all that was left to see, and it was time to go. It is quite an amazing place, and even though it was closed, I'm very happy to have gotten there before the water reached the window at the top of the minaret. At least the stork's nest on the top would remain out of the water.